In prepared remarks for his testimony, delivered before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Walker [David Walker, the top official at the Government Accountability Office] said that the average number of daily insurgent attacks tallied by the American military had decreased from about 180 in June 2007 to 60 in the latest available count, for January. But that lower number, roughly equivalent to the levels of violence in the spring of 2005, remained essentially unchanged since the last significant decrease between October and November.
"While security has improved in Iraq, a permissive security environment has yet to be achieved," Walker said in his prepared remarks.
In November 2006, a camera crew from NBC's "Dateline" and a police SWAT team descended on the Texas home of Louis William Conradt Jr., a 56-year-old assistant district attorney. The series' "To Catch a Predator" team had allegedly caught Conradt making online advances to a decoy who pretended to be a 13-year-old boy. When the police and TV crew stormed Conradt's home, he took out a handgun and shot himself to death.
"That'll make good TV," one of the police officers on the scene reportedly told an NBC producer. Deeply cynical, perhaps, but prescient. "Dateline" aired a segment based on the grim encounter.
After telling the ghoulish tale, it ended with Conradt's sister Patricia decrying the "reckless actions of a self-appointed group acting as judge, jury and executioner, that was encouraged by an out-of-control reality show."
Patricia Conradt sued NBC for more than $100 million. Last month, Judge Denny Chin of U.S. District Court in New York ruled that her lawsuit could go forward. Chin's thoughtful ruling sends an important message at a time when humiliation television is ubiquitous, and plumbing ever lower depths of depravity in search of ratings.
"To Catch a Predator" is part of an ever-growing lineup of shows that calculatingly appeal to their audience's worst instincts. The common theme is indulging the audience's voyeuristic pleasure at someone else's humiliation, and the nastiness of the put-down has become the whole point of the shows.
Humiliation TV has been around for some time. "The Weakest Link" updated the conventional quiz show by installing a viciously insulting host, and putting the focus on the contestants' decision about which of their competitors is the most worthless. "The Apprentice" purported to be about young people getting a start in business, but the whole hour built up to a single moment: when Donald Trump barked "You're fired."
But to hold viewers' interest, the levels of shame have inevitably kept growing. A new Fox show, "Moment of Truth," in a coveted time slot after "American Idol," dispenses cash prizes for truthfully (based on a lie-detector test) answering intensely private questions.
Sample: "Since you've been married, have you ever had sexual relations with someone other than your husband?" If the show is as true as it says it is, questions in two recent episodes seemed carefully designed to break up contestants' marriages.
Reprehensible as "Moment of Truth" is, it doubtless falls into the venerable category of verbal grotesquery protected by the First Amendment. The producers of "To Catch a Predator," however, appear to be on the verge - if not over it - of becoming brown shirts with television cameras. If you are going into the business of storming people's homes and humiliating them to the point of suicide, you should be sure to have some good lawyers on retainer.
An e-mail message made public in the fraud trial of Antoin Rezko, a businessman and political contributor, brought attention to Senator Barack Obama's role in discussions involving a state health planning board that Rezko is accused of improperly influencing.
The message indicated that Obama, now a Democratic presidential candidate, and other top Illinois politicians consulted in 2003 on legislation to keep the board, which approved the construction of health facilities, from expiring under sunset provisions in state law.
The vaguely worded message released Monday also seemed to raise the possibility that Obama, who at the time was chairman of the Illinois Senate's health committee, had been involved in recommending candidates for the board.
A Fall From White Knight to Client 9
Mr. Spitzer’s path through public life has at times resembled a blindfolded dash along the political I-beam.
He was not the first politician to burn with a moral fervor; but he sometimes failed to recognize that his own footsteps could fall in ethically dodgy territory. In 1994, he denied — and later acknowledged — secretly borrowing millions of dollars from his father to finance an unsuccessful run in the Democratic primary for state attorney general. Mr. Spitzer the prosecutor might have pursued this sort of behavior as possibly illegal.
The Republicans complained, yet he sidestepped questions and won election to the office four years later.
In the first study of its kind, researchers at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found at least one in 4 teenage American girls has a sexually transmitted disease.
The most common one is a virus that can cause cervical cancer, and the second most common can cause infertility. Nearly half the black teens in the study had at least one sexually transmitted infection, versus 20 percent among both whites and Mexican-American teens.
The so-called Term Securities Lending Facility will allow strapped financial institutions to hand potentially damaged securities to the government in exchange for withe cash or Treasury securities, whose U.S.-government backing makes them one of the safest investments on the market.
The Fed normally lends Treasury securities to banks for just a few hours. Under the new [$200 billion] program, money will be lent for 28 days and the central bank will accept nongovernment mortgage backed securities - the source of the current crisis in the credit markets - as collateral.
IN OUR PAGES: 50 YEARS AGO
WASHINGTON - 1933
President Roosevelt tonight [March 11] announced that all technical difficulties in connection with his program for reopening of the nation's banks have been straightened out and that all member banks of the Federal Reserve System will resume operations on Monday.
Meanwhile a new note of optimism has been injectd into the general economic situation, particularly as it affects the hard-pressed agricultural districts, asa a result of the move launched today by farm leaders to invest the President with the same wide powers to deal with the farm problems as he has done with the banking crisis.
A further tragedy here, beyond the personal one and the damage he has done to the reform cause, is that Spitzer's targets are now relishing their tormentor's torment. Those on Wall Street who fumed at having to make their world fairer for ordinary shareholders can now chortle with satisfaction in their private enclaves.
Now that the economic crunch is reaching those near the top of the pyramid, there is finally a sense that the United States is facing a real crisis.
Forget about a soft landing. The stock markets continue to tumble. The dollar has weakened. The subprime mortgage debacle has morphed into a full-fledged panic. And Joseph Stiglitz is telling us the war in Iraq will cost the U.S. $3 trillion.
Maybe now we Americans can stop listening to the geniuses who insisted that the way to nirvana was to ignore the broad national interest while catering to the desires of those who were already the wealthiest among us.
We have always gotten a distorted picture of how well Americans were doing from politicians and the media. The United States has a population of 300 million. Thirty-seven million, many of them children, live in poverty. Close to 60 million are just one notch above the official poverty line. These near-poor Americans live in households with annual incomes that range from $20,000 to $40,000 for a family of four.
As Andrew Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, told me some months ago: "Workers are incredibly, legitimately scared that the American dream, particularly the belief that their kids will do better, is ending."
It is. The dream is in grave danger because the ruling elite stopped looking out for the collective interests of the society and all but stopped investing in the future. We are swimming in a vast sea of indebtedness, most of it bringing no worthwhile return.
Former Senator Bill Bradley, in a conversation the other day, described the amount of public and private indebtedness in the U.S. as "ominous." In his book, "The New American Story," Bradley said:
"For almost a generation, America has cheated our future and lived only in the here and now. Economic growth depends on the level of investment in both physical capital - machines, infrastructure, technology - and human capital, which consists of the combined skills and health of our work force."
Instead of making those investments, we've neglected our physical and human infrastructure, squeezed the daylights out of the work force (now a fearful and demoralized lot) and tried to hide the resulting debacle behind the fool's gold of debt and denial.
Americans save virtually nothing. They have looted the equity in their homes and driven their credit card balances to staggering heights. Meanwhile, the Bush administration has claimed colossal new standards of fiscal irresponsibility. At some point, to take just one example, someone will have to pay the $3 trillion for the war.
John Mack stood before his board and shareholders at Morgan Stanley's 2007 annual meeting and struck a bold, aggressive tone
"Do we take a lot of risk? Yes," he said forcefully, in response to a shareholder who questioned him about Morgan Stanley's reliance on risky trades and increased debt to finance these positions. "I think this firm has the capacity to take a lot more risk than it has in the past."
Next month, at Morgan Stanley's 2008 annual meeting, Mack is unlikely to be so bold.
LETTER FROM THE MIDDLE EAST
The first Shawas came to Gaza from the Arabian peninsula 600 years ago with a herd of sheep and business sense, so the lore goes. Over time, they multiplied and became farmers and merchants, politicians and rebels, physicians and builders.
For Khaled Shabaan Assad al-Shawa, his clan's saga is both a source of family pride and a reminder that the city was not always synonymous with despair, displacement and upheaval. Before thousands of refugees arrived and conflict between Israel and the Palestinians became endless, Gaza was a place of culture, trade and legend.
"Gaza is not just what you see in the newspapers," says Shabaan, 65, a retired school principal. "There are centuries of history here, though in the current situation, it's hard to remember that."
Shabaan's lament is common among Palestinians who feel their historical narrative has become overwhelmed by current events. They also believe they are battling a competing Israeli story line: that Palestine is an artificial construct lodged in what is basically Jewish historical birthright.
Approximately 50,000 Jews lived in Belgium in the 1930s and about half were killed in the Holocaust.
After the Nazi invasion in May 1940, the Belgian government fled to Britain but issued instructions authorizing civil servants who stayed to work with the Nazis to keep services running and prevent the economic breakdown that occurred during the German occupation in World War I.
During the war, that often led to Belgian officials collaborating in the persecution of Jews, although resistance was also strong in Belgium and underground networks set up to save Jews were more successful than in many other occupied countries.
For Belgium, it was another opportunity to come to terms with a dark chapter of its history.
Last year, a government-backed report blamed the Belgian authorities and the governing elite for collaborating in the Nazi persecution of Jews. The head of the Senate even condemned the "cowardliness of our administration" during the 1940-1944 occupation.
Early in the occupation Jewish citizens were ordered to register themselves, then they were obliged to wear yellow stars, then schools and hospitals were segregated. Raids soon rounded up Jews in Belgian cities, and they were deported to Nazi concentration camps. Some cities helped with the deportations that sent thousands to their deaths.
After the war, many cases were considered too delicate to be handled by military courts and any involvement of the authorities in the persecution was rejected.
With the restitution, the commission said, "The primary objective was clearly to close a section of the past, which still seems half-open, more than 60 years after the events."
Goldsmith [former Attorney General Peter Goldsmith in a 138-page report to Prime Minister Gordon Brown] calls for a pledge of allegiance, the establishment of a new national holiday to celebrate Britishness, and expanded ceremonies that would take place when new immigrants become British citizens. He also said schoolchildren should have a citizenship ceremony as well.
"We are experiencing changes in our society which may have an impact on the bond that we feel we share as citizens," Goldsmith said in the report. "I propose a range of measures that may help to promote a shared sense of belonging."
The idea of pledging allegiance to Britain is a weak attempt to copy the American practice, he [Paul Flynn, a Labour Party member of Parliament from Wales] said, and does not reflect the reality of the United Kingdom.
"I've never described myself as being British. I describe myself as Welsh," he said. "I live in the U.K., but I'm not happy that it's united and I'm less happy that it's a kingdom."
Goldsmith did not comment in his review of British citizenship law on whether it should be illegal to violate the king's companion, or the wife of the king's heir. But the language, he said, needed cleaning up.
"The language used in the Treason Act does not clearly reflect the kinds of acts which might be thought treasonous today, or the means by which they may be committed," Goldsmith said.
Britain has banned a far-right Israeli political activist from entering the country, saying his views could foment violence, the activist and a British official said Tuesday.
The activist, Moshe Feiglin, is a West Bank settler who heads a faction in the hardline Likud Party. His theocratic platform, which calls for harsh military action against Palestinians, pulling Israel out of the U.N. and encouraging non-Jews to emigrate, is considered extreme even by some settlers.
Englishness, it won't surprise anyone to learn, is a defining topic of the English theater, which has taken to examining the way this country lived once and continues to live now.
Spending $1,500 a week on fuel has depleted his maintenance budget, however. Now he avoids driving from his home base in Lodi, Ohio, into Pennsylvania because the hills strain his motor. Mr. Jarachovic used to buy Krispy Kreme doughnuts at truck stops, and treat his family to dinner at Applebee’s every Sunday. Now his wife cooks extra spaghetti so he can eat leftovers on the road.
“I have no expenses left to cut,” Mr. Jarachovic said.
Correction: March 13, 2008 An article in Business Day on Tuesday about the rising price of diesel misstated the amount of diesel and gasoline used by Americans in 2007. They used about 3.395 billion barrels of gasoline, not 3.395 billion gallons, and about 1.55 billion barrels of diesel and heating oil, not 1.55 billion gallons. (At 42 gallons to the barrel, the correct figures in gallons are 143 billion gallons of gasoline and 65 billion gallons of diesel and heating oil.) The article also misquoted Jim Frieze, equipment director for O & S Trucking of Springfield, Mo., who commented on the driving practices of some truckers. He said that gearshifts that take the engine over 1,800 r.p.m. — not 8,000 r.p.m. — waste fuel.
A draft summit statement speaks of taking "appropriate measures" against industrialized — and industrializing — nations, if they prove to be laggards on climate change.
The text, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, does not name any trade partners. But its message appears aimed in part at the United States, which has shunned the 1997 Kyoto agreement, the existing international climate change accord that expires in 2012.
The leaders plan to warn that unless countries such as the U.S. and China commit to a new international accord curbing carbon dioxide and other emissions that cause global warming that they may face import and other sanctions in their trade with the 27-nation EU.
China is still failing to meet its targets for improving energy efficiency and reducing pollution. On Tuesday, senior officials said that China must make bigger improvements during the next three years or the country will fail to meet its five-year goal of reducing energy usage per unit of gross domestic product by 20 percent by 2010.
Xie Zhenhua, vice chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, said the country was steadily lowering its energy usage but still not meeting the target of annual 4 percent reductions. Last year, China's energy consumption per unit of GDP dropped by 3.27 percent.
"We still face a challenging situation," Xie said at a news conference at the Great Hall of the People. "The economy continues to grow, and the pattern of heavy industrialization has not changed."
He went on to praise the broadcasters for “standing up for our values, including the right to life,” and pledged to veto any legislation that would reinstitute the so-called “fairness doctrine,” which required broadcasters to give air time to opposing views.
Mr. Bush often talks about his belief in “the universality of freedom,” as he did last year to a conference of political dissidents in Prague. But rarely has the president mixed the language of faith and God so closely with talk of war and terrorism, as he did Tuesday at the Opryland hotel here.
Calling freedom a “precious gift,” Mr. Bush said: “The liberty we value is not ours alone. Freedom is not America’s gift to the world; it is God’s gift to all humanity.” His words were punctuated by shouts of “Amen.”
Academic clubs and social and cultural organizations all haze new members, students told professors Elizabeth Allan and Mary Madden from the University of Maine's College of Education and Human Development.
"It's far more widespread than many people would've assumed," Allan said.
The professors' National Study of Student Hazing was based on responses from 11,482 students at 53 institutions. It was released Tuesday at the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators meeting in Boston.
Among students who belonged to campus organizations, 31 percent of men and 23 percent of women reported participating in drinking games, and 17 percent of men and 9 percent of women reported drinking to the point of getting sick or passing out.
The manual does not stop interrogators from questioning prisoners aggressively. It simply forbids the use of techniques that are regarded by most civilized people as abuse and torture, including sexual abuse, electric shocks, mock executions and the infamous form of simulated drowning known as waterboarding.
In a letter The New York Times published on Sunday, Mark Mansfield, the CIA spokesman, said that the agency has no objections to those restrictions and that the "CIA neither conducts nor condones torture."
We're glad he cleared that up. Mansfield's boss, the CIA director, General Michael Hayden, told Congress recently that he had banned waterboarding in 2006 (after the courts started questioning Bush's detention policies), but he was still "not certain" whether it is legal.
A state investigation last year found that nearly 200 foreign workers were cheated by several companies in an upstate resort town. The state ordered the businesses to repay the employees, plus interest, and pay state fines.
Tribalism may be convenient shorthand for what ails Kenya, but the real problem lies in a fierce competition for resources, especially land.
The post-colonial government of Jomo Kenyatta used land for its own purposes, currying favor with wealthy supporters by allowing them to acquire plantations at bargain prices, and wooing the poor by encouraging them to settle outside their traditional areas. This approach also was adopted by several of Kenyatta's successors.
Frighteningly, as Kenya's population continues to explode - it has doubled since 1980 - there are millions of additional people who have neither access to land nor the skills to find a job in the nonagricultural economy.
Kenya is not the only place where economic inequity and social unrest have set deep roots in the fertile soil of landlessness.
Generation Investment Management will probably restrict inflows into its main Global Equity Fund next month, Gore and David Blood, co-founder of the company, said at a news conference Tuesday.
The bank attained its target sum, the equivalent of $8.44 billion, and had even more interest than expected, a sign of investor confidence in the scandal-plagued financial institution that could help it fend off predators.
The share issue was oversubscribed by 184 percent, with total subscription orders of €10.2 billion, the bank said in a statement.
In his opening statement Tuesday, the prosecutor Alan Tieger said that more than 350 civilians were killed in August and September 1995, most of them not in the heat of the battle but executed in revenge actions.
U.S. advisers, among them retired and active American military personnel, helped plan the operation, and Americans directed unmanned aircraft over the battle zone to gain real-time intelligence for Croatian forces, Croatian government officials have said.
The United States is not implicated in any of the charges related to the operation, but its intelligence methods and sources might be revealed, lawyers at the court said. In the summer of 1995, Washington and Western diplomats were seeking to end the war and were in favor of rolling back Serbia's considerable military gains in Bosnia and Croatia, in order to create a viable peace plan.
Washington has taken a keen interest in the trial, and American diplomats have visited the war crimes tribunal to discuss the case, a former senior prosecutor said.
Kehoe was also the top American lawyer at an Iraqi special tribunal in Baghdad, where he worked for the U.S. government and ran the large office that built criminal cases against Saddam Hussein and his top henchmen.
As unlikely as it may have seemed even to them, those artists are the headliners of an ambitious $40 million public arts program initiated by MGM Mirage, the city's biggest resort corporation, with the goal of promoting Las Vegas as a destination for the art world.
Works by those and other artists, variously commissioned and acquired, are to dot an $8 billion, 76-acre, or about 31-hectare, development called CityCenter that MGM Mirage is constructing on the Las Vegas Strip. The site is expected to open late next year with a 4,500-room hotel-casino, five nongaming boutique hotels and residential towers, and a 500,000-square-foot, or about 46,500-square-meter, retail district.
MGM Mirage recruited an all-star architectural lineup to design the buildings, including Daniel Libeskind, Rafael Viñoly, Norman Foster and Fred W. Clarke of Pelli Clarke Pelli.
"We're going to create an art program that will be important on a global scale, that will have some meaning to Nevada, that will have some meaning to the environmental sensitivities we're trying to accomplish here," Murren said.
"But they probably regret that decision now, because we just went on to the next dealers."
Now, she employs eight people and a team of freelancers and her magazine, London Macadam, is available at 300 distribution points in London and 50 in Paris. She is among the legions of entrepreneurial refugees who have survived and thrived in England even as France’s president, Nicolas Sarkozy, has been pushing forward a pro-capitalist agenda.
Ms. Sivilia says she would consider returning to France but probably not as a business owner.
“I’d do like the English,” she says with a laugh. “I’d buy a house in the south of France. But while I’m in my entrepreneurial phase, I want to be here.”
He also learned that while an employer in France must pay pension, unemployment and social security charges that add up to 48 percent of an employee’s salary, British employers pay only about 10 percent.
He says he believes that such differences reveal a deeper philosophical divide. “The economy is viewed here as something needed, one of the most important parts of society, if you want everyone to be clothed and fed,” Mr. Cothias said. “This creates a totally different environment for business.”
The complaints of businessmen like Mr. Cothias have not gone unheeded in the halls of government in Paris. Three years ago, he was invited with several other émigré business owners to meet a government minister. One change that resulted from their criticism was a reduction in the fee for registering a new company in France to one euro, about $1.53.
Pearl Cornioley, who parachuted into Nazi-occupied France to work as a courier between the British and the French resistance and rose to command 3,000 underground fighters, died on Feb. 24 in the Loire Valley of France. She was 93.
Her unit interrupted a railway line that connected the south of France to Normandy more than 800 times in June 1944, the month of D-Day. It also regularly attacked German convoys.
But she burned with anger over France's defeat and began searching for a way to fight back. Luckily, her French was superb.
"And anyway I didn't like the Germans," she was quoted as saying in an obituary in The Independent. "Never did. I'm a baby of the 1914-18 war."
Opposition parties and returning troops say the shortage of helicopters has forced commanders to move troops into battle in southern Afghanistan over roads where the risks of bombs are high, and they have compared the equipment provided for British troops by the Defense Ministry unfavorably with the equipment supplied to American troops.
In the second attack, which occurred minutes after the first explosion and several kilometers away across the city, two people drove a small pickup truck up to a house that was being used as an office for an advertising company in Model Town, an upscale residential neighborhood, according to Interior Ministry and police officials.
They exploded themselves and the truck, destroying the front of the house and damaging neighboring buildings, and killing three people, two of them children, according to the Interior Ministry.
Model Town is an affluent neighborhood where senior politicians, including Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of the slain opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, and Nawaz Sharif, the head of the Pakistan Muslim League-N, maintain homes.
The explosion damaged many nearby buildings. The agency office is located on the busy Temple Road in Lahore, and commercial and residential buildings and a few schools are nearby.
Local news channels showed gory images of destruction caused by the twin explosions. More than two dozen vehicles, crumpled like paper, lay scattered on the road outside the agency office.
Plumes of smoke billowed out of the building, which was almost completely destroyed. Its windows were blown apart and staircases damaged. Officials warned that the eight-floor building could collapse at any time. Distraught relatives were shown standing near the debris.